Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is one of the best known and most loved stately homes in the UK. Home to the Duke of Devonshire since the mid-16th century, it’s maybe even more famous as Pemberley House from Pride & Prejudice and May Carleton's mansion in Peaky Blinders.
The house is in the heart of the Peak District close to Chesterfield. As well as being a beautiful stately home, it houses one of Europe’s most significant art collections, has huge gardens full of flowers and water features, and has a working farmyard which you can visit.
We visited in early summer so the gardens were in full bloom and looked really pretty!
Chatsworth House Entrance
Somehow, we’re already running behind schedule and our day hasn’t even started yet! We’re booked on the 11am tour of the house, but it’s almost 11am when we turn into the grounds and start to make our way down the long driveway towards the house.
We get our first glimpse through the trees from a long distance, and Sneha wants to pull over to take some photos. “We don’t have time, we’re already running late, just get one from the car window instead” Paul says! (and the photo comes pretty good!)
Luckily the parking space is just at the entrance of the house, hence showing our tickets at the gate doesn’t take too long. And we’re inside the house at the welcome desk only a few minutes after 11. “Oh, you’re the ones booked onto the tour” the lady at the desk says, “if we hurry you through, they’re waiting for you to start”. Before we know it we’re ushered through a cordoned off corridor and into a grand hallway, and it feels like all eyes are on us as it’s announced we’re here and the tour can start!
The Tour - Chatsworth House in Derbyshire
As we’re feeling a little sheepish and can feel eyes burning holes into us from the other tour attendees, our guide starts to tell us the history of the house and takes us through some corridors to the first main room of our visit... the Chapel.
The Chapel is one of the oldest rooms and has been described by the current Duke of Devonshire as “the least changed room in the house”. And the décor is simply stunning... original oil paintings from the 17th century adorn the ceilings and walls!
A huge white marble altar sits at one end of the room, and to add some contrast, beneath the arch sits a modern Damien Hirst sculpture of Saint Bartholomew. After telling us about some of the art, we’re given a few minutes to admire them and take some photos, before we’re moved into the next room, the Oak Room.
The Oak Room
As the name suggests, this room is covered in rich oak panelling bought from a German monastery in 1837, with more art and some narwhal tusks framing the fireplace. (If you don’t know what a narwhal is, (A quick Wiki)... they’re called the unicorns of the sea!)
The next room for us to see is the Grotto... a small room built to support the Great Stairs in the house. But it is interesting in its own right having a fountain built on one wall to show-off the fact the house had running water when most houses of the time didn’t, and is also used to showcase more art.
The centrepiece for our visit is a double-sided painting, Momento Mori by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio... one side showing the subject as a youthful looking man, the other showing his skull after death, depicting the fragile line between life and death. It’s quite a statement piece!
But it has nothing on our next stop... leaving the Grotto, we enter the Painted Hall and see the Great Stairs which it was built to support, and WOW!!!
The Great Stairs of the Chatsworth House
The rooms so far have been impressive, but this is something else!! It’s a huge room covered in oil paintings again, with a massive staircase at one end, and balconies all around. It was built by the 1st Duke to welcome and impress guests, and it certainly succeeds in doing that!
Going upstairs there are more carvings and paintings to admire on the way to the State Apartment... a suite of rooms built to host a King, but which never got used to do so.
We start off in the Grand Chamber which was intended to be used as a gathering room for anyone invited to see the King, but which today houses some pottery collections of the Duchess of Devonshire.
Rooms in Chatsworth House in Derbyshire
And moving along the suites the rooms become more and more private... the Drawing Room, the Music Room, and then the Bedchamber. It’s hard to believe these rooms were built and weren’t used as meant... they’re all stunning! But even though Royalty may never have come and stayed here, there are the thrones used by King George III and Queen Charlotte for their coronations, as well as lots of Chinese porcelain and artworks.
At the end of the State Apartment are some more rooms and galleries showing more artwork, including A man in oriental costume by Rembrandt, and work by Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. Paul says he can’t comprehend how much the artwork must be worth, and those on show are probably only a tiny proportion of their total collection!
The Beautiful Corridor, Library and Great Dining Room
As we walk to the last section of the house and towards the end of the tour, we pass through a really cool corridor... yes there’s art, but this time it’s very different! The corridor walls are covered in little blocks, and our guide explains that each part of the wall represents the DNA sequence of the family.
The tour ends with us passing by the Library which featured in Peaky Blinders... we can’t go in as the Devonshire family still use this on a daily basis, but the doors are open so we get to have a peek inside. And then we see the Great Dining Room which once hosted a young Queen Victoria before she ascended to throne and is still used today to host formal dinners.
The Great Sculpture Gallery
The tour finishes in the Great Sculpture Gallery which, yep you guessed it, is full of 19th century sculptures. It’s considered one of the best collections there is, and features sculptures of Napoleon, Achilles, Venus, Cupid and Latona with her children, Apollo and Artemis.
With the tour over but with a little bit of time before lunch, we ask the guide if we can go back and see some of the rooms which the tour skipped.
The Hidden Artifacts!
She takes us back through and we see some more bedrooms, as well as another guide letting us through a closed off corridor to see some hidden pieces which wouldn’t otherwise have been shown!
Every room we see is absolutely stunning and the amount of art is crazy, there must be as much here as in any art gallery in the world!
Most times when we go on guided tours or listen to an audio guide, we get a bit bored after a while and disappear off to explore on our own, but this one was really good and interesting all the way through to the end!
The Cavendish Restaurant at Chatsworth House
There are lots of options for lunch at the old stables block at Chatsworth House ranging from a self-serve café, takeaway options, a bar, and The Cavendish, a restaurant which we’ve opted for as it happens to be Sneha’s birthday today!
As we’ve come to expect after our morning tour of the house, the restaurant is beautiful, with floor to ceiling windows looking into the internal courtyard. And the food on offer is great too... Sneha has Smoked Haddock Roulade and Paul has Chatsworth Estate Beef and Ale Pie.
And as a nice surprise, Sneha is gifted a birthday Chocolate Brownie for dessert! The place is definitely really nice for celebrating your special days ! :-)
Chatsworth House Gardens and Grounds
Feeling like we need some exercise to walk off our delicious lunch, we head out into the gardens to explore the rest of the grounds.
We start at Paxton’s Glasshouse which is the one surviving glasshouse of three dating back to 1834. The East India House was built to house the Duke’s orchid collection from all over the world, and today houses an award-winning Chatsworth grape vinery and home grown peaches.
Further on is the Great Conservatory which houses loads of different plants and flowers, and just outside is the Cascade water feature, and the Rock Garden, an amazing area with a waterfall, pond, and loads of rocks, trees and bushes which you could explore for hours.
There’s also a tunnel to walk through, a maze to find your way around, and lots more to see and do... you really could spend all day just exploring the gardens!
But unfortunately we don’t have all day, so after the Rock Garden we head back towards the house and to the Emperor Fountain and Canal Pond, before walking around to the front of the house to get some photos. The exterior is just as beautiful as the interior is, and with the weather having brightened up a little, the River Derwent gives some great reflections of the house on the water’s surface.
How to Book tickets to the Chatsworth House in Derbyshire
There are many options available - you can visit the House alone, or include gardens or you can even visit the farmyard. Follow the below link to check the options . The prices range from £7 for adults to £79 for family all inclusive
They host events across the year. So, before planning your trip check out the events and experiences for some added fun time!
It will be good to book in advance a table at the restaurants of your choice as well during peak times. We visited The Cavendish Restaurant and it offers a great deal of local Derbyshire menu in the most royal way which they keep refreshing. Check them out in the below link!
It’s been an amazing day out! Every room in the house is jaw-droppingly stunning and has an interesting history behind it... the gardens are huge and could be explored for hours, and the food at the Cavendish Restaurant is all locally sourced and delicious!
We would definitely recommend doing the house tour and then exploring the gardens afterwards as we did though, the only thing we regretted from the day was not having more time to fully explore the gardens! So, with it getting towards closing time and us having to leave to head home, we make a last stop at the gift shop for a look around and to buy some souvenirs.